For Jon Marshall Greenberg, God is gracious.
February 22, 1956 – July 12, 1993
Journal entry, undated, in the year of his death, 1993
I have been learning, since I first opened that door, to handle spiritual reality for increasingly longer periods of time. It’s wild in there. I can now handle it for almost three seconds.
Jon taught me everything I live and know about death and dying. He taught me many other things, but for this lesson, I am daily thankful. I am relieved, even grateful, to find no cure for life, to come to know life as death’s bas-relief. You may balk at this statement, but sooner or later you will confront its veracity. You may rage at human transience; I would gently suggest that you confront your simple mortality. Your wellbeing, your growth, your soul, your comfort, your legacy, your journey towards death depend upon this dictim. This is needed, even essential–at least in the complex world we inhabit, at least as much as women need midwives and doulas to transition into motherhood. I hold these views because of my friend Jon, who deserves credit for so much in my mature life. Jon didn’t want a cure, asked us to burn his body in the street and eat his flesh, dutifully confronted us with out own forthcoming mortality. Every day, I wish to remind myself of how often I fell short of being the kind of friend he needed. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had magic-wand ambitions, hadn’t yet learned the value of presence and silence. The gift of time. The measure of comfort and being-with. I hadn’t lost the need to fix things in my own image, didn’t receive these gifts, embody these skills (if I even have) until after he left.
But I did carry on. And I do resist a cure for what ails me, what I am dying of, what I am made of. I resist the very notion of cure as it is presented in so-called western medicine. I prefer to sit with people who long for cures, but must settle for life-as-it-is, helping, if I can, transform horror, by improvisation, into a soothing lotion rubbed onto the naked body, sealing in the private journey and cherishing what is out of reach, a final untouched meal.
Some of my poems about Jon can be read here.
>Thank you Risa for this. A true friendship you had with Jon. Makes oneself wonder if he was an atheist all his life until that last three seconds?mark